Getting paid quickly

How do you get paid as quickly as possible by your customers?

Firstly deliver the product or service to the expectations of your customer.

Assuming this has been done, we will take you through the areas to focus on to get paid as quickly as possible.

In the short to medium term, focus on these four areas:

  1. Improve the credit control team and the processes they follow
  2. The speed in which queried invoices are dealt with
  3. Improve the invoicing process i.e. how quickly are the invoices issued to customers
  4. Improve the quality of the invoices (higher quality equals lower queries)

(the above are in order with the easiest and quickest to action first)

To really impact payments from your customers over the long term, it is essential to renegotiate better payment terms

 

Credit Control

The credit control’s approach to collecting cash from customers should be systematic and process driven for best results. Different businesses have different approaches. These depend on areas such as:

  • The volume and value of invoices being issued
  • The number of and quality of relationships with customers
  • The complexity of the product / service

A mixture of email, phone and other chasing methods are typically used as well as debt management software available. Credit Control must develop and maintain a good working relationship with customer staff that manage the payments process

 

For SME and mid-cap companies, a standard credit control process might be:

  1. Call the new customer and asked to be walked through the payment process and document the process, including who signs off invoices/payments at each stage
  2. Call the customer x days after issuing an invoice. Ensure the customer has received the invoice, there are no queries with the invoice and it has been loaded onto their payment system
  3. Deal with any queries or errors immediately to the satisfaction of the customer
  4. Use finance system generated aged debt reports based on due dates to monitor when payments should be received and what action needs to be taken by the credit control team at pre-agreed points
  5. Call the customer y weeks prior to payment due date. Find out if the invoice:
    1. has been approved for payment
    2. has been included on the next payment run
    3. the expected payment date
  6. For all overdue debt, repeat step 5 on a daily/weekly/other basis
  7. Devise and consistently follow a bad debt process for debt more than x weeks overdue. This process should include escalation steps internally and with the customer. As a last resort, legal action could be taken

Ensure the credit control team is well trained and know what actions are needed, when and why

The credit control team is a really important touch point with your customers so how they communicate with customers is also really important and reflects on your business branding

The business’ management team should also be willing supporters of credit control by ensuring that sales or operational staff who have relationships with the customer help collect debt if needed

 

The invoicing process

The key goal is to get an accurate invoice in the format the customer requires to the customer as quickly as possible

Firstly, consider if automation of part or all of the invoicing process is a sensible and cost effective option for your business. The higher the invoice volumes the more likely automation will be beneficial. As well as cost, accuracy, speed and visibility are also very important benefits of automation

Break down the whole invoicing process into information flows and tasks. Are there any bottle necks or areas that have a lot of manual intervention? Can these processes be redesigned with issues reduce or removed? It is important to spend time on the overall process design

Make sure that all parts of the business providing information for invoicing purposes understand what information is required by when. A review process to ensure that the quality and completeness of information is consistent

Try to ensure that as much as possible of the invoice process is consistent. i.e. the same tasks are performed in the same way. This increases speed, accuracy, the ability to cover team members on holiday / off ill and also reduces the cost of raising invoices

There may also be opportunities to persuade your customer to simplify their requirements and thus reduce the complexity of what they are demanding of you to get your invoices paid. This can be challenging but is very worth exploring

 

Invoice Quality

Invoices with no mistakes and showing the information requested by customer are really important for a number of reasons:

  • Far less disputed or queried invoices which are therefore paid more quickly
  • You don’t incur additional costs in dealing with queries and re-issuing invoices
  • You maintain a reputation for quality and attention to detail with you customers

If you have current invoice quality issues find out why they are arising. Some areas to consider might include:

Issues internal within the finance team

  • a different process is applied to each customer (i.e. a variety of processes) or the process has significant complexities
  • poor tools for staff (systems or processes)
  • lots of manual interventions are needed to create invoices
  • incorrect setup of customer records
  • not understanding the customer invoice requirements
  • poor quality staff
  • lack of training

Issues with information prior to it being passed to the finance team:

  • poor quality input information or information containing errors
  • missing information require the finance team to chase information
  • constantly changing information causing confusion as to what is the latest or correct information
  • last minute information or quick turnaround demands giving less time to check information and create the invoice correctly

Addressing the problem areas are essential to improve your invoice quality

Time invested in this area will reduce time spent on invoice queries and credit control (which can be significant) and is likely to provide a good return on investment

 

Just to recap focus on these four areas to ensure the quick payment from your customers:

  1. Improve the credit control team and the processes they follow
  2. The speed in which queried invoices are dealt with
  3. Improve the invoicing process i.e. how quickly are the invoices issued to customers
  4. Improve the quality of the invoices (higher quality equals lower queries)

 

Contact us if you would like to discuss how to reduce your debtors or if you need help implementing debtor reduction solutions within your business

 

 

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